Bangladesh's major industrial sectors, including garment, suffer from a large shortage of skilled workers and the country will need to train more than 4 million by 2021 to meet the requirements of the growing economy.
The garment industry itself needs 1.5 million trained workers, said a study presented at the BIDS Research Almanac 2016, held yesterday at the capital's Lakeshore Hotel.
The Research Almanac is an annual event organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, where researchers present their recent studies in front of an audience.
By 2025, more than 5.6 million people have to be trained, said BIDS Director General KAS Murshid, while sharing the findings of the joint study -- Skill Gap Analysis in Different Sectors.
“The scale of the problem is enormous and it is set to get even bigger. Innovative approaches are needed to fast-track those. The traditional approaches will not deliver,” he said, citing the government's GDP growth targets and development goals for the coming years.
The existing shortages, especially of skilled workers and technical occupations, are quite large. The projections indicate a substantial demand emerging over the next 5-10 years, he said.
The paper studied nine major sectors -- garment, agro-food, construction, health, hospitality and tourism, ICT, leather goods, light engineering and shipbuilding -- and found the skills gap to be quite large.
The highest skills gap was found in the agro food sector followed by garment.
The overall skills gap in the agro food sector is 76 percent, while the apparel sector faces a shortage of 119,479 skilled workers and 48,130 semi-skilled workers.
“The picture of the health sector is dismal,” Murshid said, while citing the need for nurses and technicians.
The situation is similar in case of construction, hospitality and tourism sectors, he added.
In another presentation, BIDS Research Director Rushidan Islam Rahman said the data on the share of trained workers reveals that healthcare, IT and hospitality are dependent on trained workers. The labour supply is projected to be 64.8 million in 2016 and 82.9 million in 2025.
“Training must be given to the workers to reap the advantage of demographic dividend that Bangladesh now enjoys,” she said, adding that results show a vocational or technical diploma has a significant positive impact on wage or salary. Better job availability for trained persons will encourage the youth to sign up for training programmes, she added.
The government aims to improve living standard of people, said Mahbub Ahmed, senior secretary of the finance division.
The country needs to have higher levels of investments to register increasing economic growth.
“But as the level of investment remains less than the target, efficiency and skills development may help increase productivity.”
The government has planned to form a fund for skills development and bring the pertinent activities of the 23 ministries and agencies under one umbrella, he added.
Rizwanul Islam, former special adviser on the employment sector at the International Labour Organisation, said skills development is needed. “But, who will do it and how?”
He recommended exploring whether the private sector can have a role in it.
Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, in his inaugural speech, said the government gives priority to human resources development to create quality jobs for youths.
Noted economist Wahiduddin Mahmud also spoke, among others.